The Howling

DECEMBER 31, 2007


How’s this for disappointment? I sit down to watch The Howling for the first time since I was 6, expecting that, like Gremlins (another Dante film that I just re-watched for the first time since hitting puberty), I will enjoy it on a different, and higher, level. But not only do I discover that whatever I watched as a kid WASN’T The Howling, but I also didn’t really much enjoy the actual Howling. So now a childhood memory is tarnished, and there’s a rare good werewolf movie out there whose name is unknown to me.

Part of the problem with the film is that it’s needlessly slow. It’s almost a good hour before we get any werewolf action. That would be OK if we liked the characters and situations that led up to it, but that is not the case here, since our characters are mostly hippies and jerks, hanging out doing hippie and jerk things. Who wants to watch that? GET TO THE WEREWOLF! Once they do, the film picks up, but it still pales in comparison to the superior American Werewolf in London, which came out the same year.

Of course, it’s not without merit. The Rob Bottin effects are just as good as Rick Baker’s for London, and the little in-jokes are quite amusing. Best was Roger Corman, in what I am almost positive was a nod to William Castle’s appearance in Rosemary’s Baby (both are seen as a red herring outside of a phone booth, and both are notorious low budget horror filmmakers). Had I not finally watched Rosemary a few weeks ago, this reference would be lost on me. And Dick Miller, a Dante staple, is a hoot in his small role as a book store owner who yells at Forry Ackerman. More stuff like this, and more werewolves, and this movie would be aces. But no, we spend most of the time watching hippies sit around campfires and Dee Wallace argue with her husband about their lacking sex life.

The DVD features a lot of extras, which I haven’t gone through yet but if you’re a fan you should be pleased (2 documentaries, a commentary, deleted scenes...). One I DID watch was an Easter Egg; an all too brief interview with Dick Miller reminiscing about his early days of acting, which to me was a real treat (he reveals, among other things, that he played both a cowboy and an Indian in the same movie). Love that guy.

I also like that a smiley face sticker foreshadows evil.

In the pantheon of werewolf movies, it’s not unwatchable, or even bad. I’d say it falls right smack in the middle of the pack (pun sort of intended, and at any rate at least acknowledged). It’s just unfortunate that the things I DO like about it, for the most part, have nothing at all to do with the damn story.

Plus, now I gotta figure out what the hell the movie I watched as a kid is.

What say you?


Club Dread

DECEMBER 30, 2007


Sadly, Club Dread has one of the all time records for essentially bombing in theaters. Not that it lost the most money or anything, but the film’s already dismal opening weekend had one of the largest drops in attendance for its 2nd weekend in all of movie money making tracking history. Gotta be proud.

Well I must admit, regrettably, that I am one of the 5.9999 billion people who didn’t go see the film in theaters, because as it turns out, I liked it a lot. Since I haven't seen Super Troopers (or their latest, Beerfest), I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was also under the impression that the film was a parody of slasher movies. But in reality, it’s more like Shaun of the Dead, in that it’s an ACTUAL genre film (Shaun = Zombie, Dread = Slasher) that happens to have a lot of really funny characters in the situation. Since being scared is one of the least essential elements of an enjoyable horror movie (having suspense is another thing), I didn’t mind the fact that the movie wasn’t scary, because it was damn funny and, surprisingly, I did not guess the killer’s identity (which more or less covered the suspense angle).

The scene where the killer gives his/her motive is one of the funniest in the film. He/she (oh fuck it, he) starts telling a story about why he did it, only to stop in mid sentence, and then he says “Oh wait, no, that’s not it,” before telling the right story. Hahahaha, genius. The only time the film really approaches parody is during the climax, where the killer comes back a record THREE times (one time after losing his legs) to strike again. The sight gag was funny enough to warrant forgiveness for breaking the film’s otherwise sort of realistic (as realistic as a slasher can be anyway) take on the genre.

Also, now that I have seen the scene in question, I fully understand why Eli Roth whined so much about Jordan Ladd’s nude scene in this film on the commentary tracks for Cabin Fever (something she declined to do for his film)... it actually DOES add to the film’s value. Immensely.

It’s also one of the increasingly rare films in which Bill Paxton has any fun. Nowadays, he’s always playing serious roles, or just plain stupid ones (Mighty Joe Young), or narrating documentaries for Cameron. It’s nice to see him go back to his Real Genius roots, i.e. being funny. He exits the film far too early though; in fact he shouldn’t have been killed at all.

One thing about the film is that it’s too long. Spoof or not, it’s the longest slasher movie ever (unless you count the ridiculous 121 min unrated version of the non-slasher slasher movie Halloween 2007). It moves along nicely for the most part, but there are things that could have been cut. Incidentally, after I watched the film I discovered it was the ‘unrated’ version I was watching, which restored a subplot about two cops. It was these very scenes that I felt slowed the film down, so Fox’s decision to put them into the film (the Broken Lizard guys prefer the theatrical cut) was a poor one. If you plan on buying the film, buy the regular version. I believe the extras are the same.

What say you?



DECEMBER 29, 2007


Female Cop: "Did he urinate on you?"
Rape Victim: "What?"
Female Cop: "Did he urinate on you, or defecate?"
Rape Victim: "They DO that?"
Female Cop: "....some do."

Now, not that I find rape funny, but exchanges like this should only be delivered by good actors. When it's two BAD actors saying them, as is the case in Lipstick, then it just becomes sort of silly, which is a problem that plagues the entire film. It takes itself deadly serious, but there are so many elements that make me chuckle that it doesn't work in any genre.

Chris Sarandon plays a music teacher who makes truly atrocious music (think Brian Eno, only worse). We have to endure this nonsense several times throughout the film, and even though it's acknowledged as terrible (albeit more or less in passing), it's still a major distraction. But since he's one of the few good actors in the film, he actually pulls off making you believe HE thinks the music is good, which of course, again, just makes it funnier.

There's also a line of dialogue straight out of the most exploitative revenge film: "He tried to kill me with his cock!" Now, if this was a Ruggero Deodato movie, that line would probably be in the trailer. But when it comes from a bad actress in the middle of an otherwise pedestrian, SERIOUS scene, it's just jarring.

The revenge segment is limited to the film's final moments. In fact, if anyone bothers to check this one out, I highly urge you not to read Netflix or Blockbuster's description of the film, as it details things that occur in the film's final 15 minutes. Which is unfortunate, because not only did it spoil what was a bit of a surprise at the end, but also made me think the film was indeed more of a typical rape-revenge thriller, instead of an occasionally ludicrous courtroom drama.

What say you?


The Attic

DECEMBER 28, 2007


I don't even know who sent me The Attic. It came sans press notes or any sort of information at all. The mailing address just had the PR company that handles lots of outlets, so that was no help. I don't even know if I was supposed to review it for this or Bloody D. Well at any rate, whoever sent it should be tried for war crimes.

The terribleness of the film was made even more excruciating by the fact that I was actually somewhat excited to see it. It was directed by Mary Lambert, one of the few female horror directors of note, thanks to the Pet Sematary movies and the slightly-better-than-expected Urban Legend 3. Also, it starred not only John Savage, but Catherine Mary Stewart (who young BC crushed on from Weekend At Bernies) and the lovely Elisabeth Moss, who was on the highly missed Invasion for a few episodes. All in all, I expected something at least on par or above the quality of your average DTV movie.

But no. This is the type of movie where you can't even begin to understand why it was made, or how it attracted the talent (as C-list as they may be) that it did. There's no point, no originality, and certainly nothing even approaching suspense or scares. No, the film is largely comprised of scenes with little to no sort of cohesion or narrative flow between them. A scene will end with two characters at odds with each other; in the next scene they'll be completely fine. The main character, who has been seeing a Doppleganger outside (that's pretty much the extent of the plot, by the way), will say "I am staying in here until someone believes me!" when no one has given her any doubt, about anything, in the previous few scenes. At one point, they cut to a cat running down the stairs, despite the fact that at no point before (or after) was it established that they even OWNED a goddamn cat. And making matters worse, that's pretty much the whole scene. Daytime, stuff happens; nighttime, a cat runs down the stairs; then it's daytime again. The cat is never seen again. OK.

Like Devil Times Five, the film's screenwriter gave himself
a role as a retarded man. You can make the joke.

In terms of offering the viewer any sort of reward for sitting through all this crap, let's see... one throat slashing, not too bad. And then... oh wait, no, that's it. There's a few shootings and a wholly off-screen sex scene as well; both are even lamer than they sound. The other 80 minutes are just Moss yelling or whining about being agoraphobic and some nonsense about a forgotten twin. And the "twist" ending of the film pretty much invalidates most of the "action" in the film anyway.

And what the hell is the point of this? It's kind of hard to tell from one image, but when you're watching it (if you are unfortunate enough to do so), it's obvious that the guy is green-screened into the shot. But why? It's a fucking house! They couldn't put him in the house (or even A house, it's not like anyone would notice if the decorations on the wall changed) to say his dumb lines? Lucas at least composites people into other planets or alien deserts and things like that, not a standard Victorian living room.

Oh well, at least it was anamorphic.

What say you?


The Orphanage (2007)

DECEMBER 27, 2007


Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone is one of the finest ghost movies ever made, blowing stuff like The Others out of the water, into the atmosphere, and pulverizing it into dust. And since the trailers for The Orphanage (aka El Orfanato), which Del Toro produced, gave me a Backbone vibe, I had high hopes for the film. Thankfully, they were more or less achieved.

This is not a film for impatient viewers. If you need a death or carnage every 5 minutes in order to accept it as a horror movie, not only are you kind of dumb, but you should definitely avoid this. The film is drenched with atmosphere and “slow burn” style chills, not fake scares and other bullshit. There are a few set-pieces here and there that provide some standard thrills (such as a panicked rescue attempt at high tide), but they are few and far between, and not really the point anyway.

Strangely, as much as I abhor the dubbing process, I almost wish the film was in English. Because the set design and cinematography were so great (and the image was 2.35:1, rare for this type of film), I found myself immersed in the image, and thus missed a few plot points because I didn’t feel like focusing on one small area of the screen so I could read the subtitles. Or maybe I should just learn Spanish. There was a hypnotism scene where a guy counted backwards from ten... at least I understood that without needing to read.

Some have claimed the ending is “happy”, but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s a very bittersweet “happiness”, if anything. A happy ending, to me anyway, is everyone surviving, bad guys dead, etc. This ending combined suicide, accidental death, parental regret... not exactly the stuff of fluffy bunnies.

Also, the lead actress, Belén Rueda, is stunningly beautiful. Just wanted to point that out.

Not sure how wide the release is, but if it’s in your area and you can appreciate a “fairy tale” style ghost movie with an emphasis on atmosphere instead of “trailer moments”, then please check it out, especially if you’re a Del Toro fan (there should be a Hellboy II trailer attached as well, wooo).

What say you?


Somebody Help Me

DECEMBER 26, 2007


A few weeks back, Horror Movie A Day was finally “legitimized” when I was asked if I would like to review Somebody Help Me for the site (all of the DVDs/early screenings I usually write about are for Bloody-Disgusting). So hurrah! I am a real critic now! Or something.

Well things aren’t off to the best start. This is not a very good movie, though it does have some merit. I wasn’t expecting much, since the DVD package itself screamed ineptitude. For starters, the aspect ratio was simply listed as “Letterbox”. That is not an aspect ratio. Then, I opened the DVD, and the damn thing was backwards (the disc was on the left). Also, anyone familiar with free DVDs or CDs or whatever will probably know that they often come with a hole or slit in the barcode. Well this one was seemingly just stabbed, right through to the black plastic! And they basically missed; the barcode is still intact. And, unsurprisingly, the disc was non-anamorphic (sigh). Also, the movie proudly admits that it’s from the director of You Got Served. Come on, give me SOMETHING to make me hopeful!

Then the film began, and I almost considered just watching something else. For nearly 20 minutes, the male characters do nothing but discuss their intention on bedding their girlfriends, while the other male characters agree with their sentiments by replying “For realllllls” and things of that nature. Meanwhile, the females are all shrill, yet equally horny. Of course, our hero is slightly more romantic, and thus we are treated to a “Not as beautiful as you” AND a “this locket is so you can always keep me close to your heart” in one scene! AAAARGGH!

Finally, around the half hour mark, someone’s ear gets cut off. Woo! For the next hour, the film sort of straddles in between a Hostel/Turistas style torture film, and a woods-set slasher. And it’s not all that bad, with some nice stalk scenes and occasionally wince-worthy torture (seeing a tooth get pulled out will never be easy to watch). But then the final 10 minutes or so turn into a J-horror type thing, with a little girl who may or may not be a ghost helping the hero (or is she?), leaving the film’s conclusion a bit of a head-scratcher. Had they just stuck with one idea this would have turned out pretty good, but by going all over the place they lose a lot of the impact.

The film is also entirely too long. 100 minutes? This type of movie should be 85, tops. And it doesn’t help when we have a pointless dream sequence that adds 5 minutes to the runtime. Also the hero keeps doing stupid things in the last 3rd that merely pad the running time even more. The film would be a normal length without it, so I am not sure why they chose to lessen the tension and make their hero look less efficient in order to make the film longer than necessary. And Christ, there’s another 20 minutes of deleted scenes, which means the film could have been even LONGER.

On the plus side, non-anamorphic presentation aside, the film is technically sound. The “letterbox” framing, sometimes referred to as “scope” or 2.35:1, is rare for a DTV film, and director Chris Stokes fills the frame well for the most part. There’s also a decent surround mix, and the gore, minimal as it is, is also more than sufficient.

Also, the movie offers a nice twist on the “black guy dies first” horror movie stereotype. Our four leads are all black, but their fodder, er, friends, are all white. It’s almost comical how quickly the white friends are all dispatched 25 minutes into the film, as ALL OF THEM go out into the woods to fool around at once. In the end, not a single one of the black characters get killed (indeed, for a slasher movie, this one has a higher than usual survivor rate) but pretty much all of the white ones are dead. Even funnier, one of the white guys is shown to be alive near the end when the hero goes to save everyone, yet he isn’t shown in the epilogue. Did they leave him to die? They also have a nice twist on the "small town sheriff". When we first see him, he’s looking at the hero and his friend suspiciously, so we assume he will be a redneck who immediately distrusts them. But instead, he’s quite nice to them since he’s friends with one of their uncles (whose name is Charles Bronson for some reason), and comes to their aid more than once.

Finally, my favorite line of bad dialogue of the year is in this film. After some weird things start happening, a cop says “Hey, do you remember what happened three years ago around this exact same time?” Oh man. Classic. It replaces “He wouldn’t be caught dead dying” from The Breed. And, in a very odd coincidence, both that film and this one have a confusing year of release. The Breed was listed as 2005 on the film itself, 2006 on the IMDb, and was released in 2007. This movie was also released in 2007, but takes place in 2006, and is dated 2005 in the production credits. Weird.

The acting is decent enough, and the technical aspects are all above average for a direct to video horror movie (even more impressive when you consider that the budget was only 600,000, according to the IMDb). But the schizo script brings it down, with too many ideas and themes that never quite gel or pan out to any sort of satisfying conclusion (the last scene is baffling in every way possible). Oh well.

Anyway, thanks to the PR folks for this movie! I never would have watched it otherwise.

What say you?


Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem

DECEMBER 25, 2007


Going to the movies on Christmas night is a tradition of mine that goes back to when I was 14 (the movie was Street Fighter!!). I can't remember if I went in 1996 (if I did it was Mars Attacks) but every other year is accounted for, and usually the movie is pretty good, and some are among my favorite films of all time (Cast Away and Jackie Brown, for examples). Every now and then though, it's a downright stinker, wrecking Christmas in the process (such as Paycheck). Well this year's movie was Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, and as it turns out, its an ironically apt title. A requiem is another word for funeral, and this film has surely killed whatever goodwill that either the Alien or Predator franchises have ever earned.

Making the original (which wasn't all that great but I didn't hate it as much as many folks did) look positively brilliant in comparison, this has to be the one of the dumbest movies I have seen all year. And since just 2 days before I watched a movie that told us that Mt. Rushmore was carved for the sole purpose of hiding a clue that would lead to a lost city of gold that could have been used to restart the Civil War, that's really saying something.

For all its faults, at least the first film FELT like a franchise film. We had the team of scientists and badasses, like the first two Alien films, and, well, some Predators, like in the Predator movies. Our group this time? A bunch of kids, a sheriff, an ex-con who constantly reminds everyone he's an ex-con, a waitress, a female soldier who just returned home... in other words, a stock motley crew out of any generic action/horror movie. There's a brief mention of the Company in the film's final scene, but otherwise this feels like the most standard Sci-Fi original movie ever. albeit with better effects (one nice thing I will say about the film - the effects are great throughout, with no bad CG and lots of decent blood gags).

Remember Ash, Burke, and the other great human (or at least, humanoid) villains from the other films? Here the primary human antagonist (apart from Robert Joy's military guy who appears in the film for about 47 total seconds) is "Dale", a punk high school kid who punches out the hero's brother (how half-assed does a movie have to be that it doesn't even give the human conflict to the actual hero?) because they are both after the same girl. Yup, if you ever watched one of the other movies in the series and thought that it didn't have enough scenes of high school kids throwing each other into a pool and doing PG rated stripteases, then this is the film for you!

Speaking of the rating, lots of folks, myself included, were excited when this film was announced to be R rated, an upgrade from the PG-13 original. Sadly, while the gore content is upped and there are a few f-bombs thrown into the dialogue, the film is aimed DIRECTLY at a younger audience, content wise, making the rating all the more puzzling. In theory, no one under 17 can see the film, and yet no intelligent person ABOVE 17 can possibly enjoy it. But then again, this is Fox, who have never made the least bit of sense when it comes to their franchise films.

As directors, the Strause brothers certainly know how to keep the pace moving (maybe too fast; this is the shortest film in either franchise), but their technical skills leave much to be desired. Several of the action scenes are shot so close up and edited so quickly, it becomes confusing as to what is happening (I can't see this being DP Daniel Pearl's fault, since he shot both the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the remake, the former being one of the greatest horror movies ever and the latter made worthwhile solely on the visuals). And I'm not usually the type to complain about these types of things; for example, there isn't a single moment in Armageddon where I am confused by the on-screen action, and that film is universally reviled for its editing style. Incidentally, this film shares a writer (Shane Salerno) with that film, and much like the first AvP, Armageddon can possibly be re-evaluated by its harshest critics after they sit through this goddamn thing.

Reiko Aylesworth (aka Michelle Dessler from 24) is cute, and in the maybe 20 seconds of screentime where she is kicking ass (pretty much all seen in the trailer), she does well. But her character disappears for long periods of time, and she really comes off like any other random person from the group most of the time, rather than the badass female warrior that any self-respecting Alien movie will have. I half expected her character to get killed off maybe halfway through, for 'shock value', but they don't even bother to do that much with her.

Some of the dialogue in this movie may someday end up on a list of the worst movie dialogue of all time. There's some nonsense about a clock behind a hot girl that, even 2 hours later, my brain has forced itself to forget verbatim, but I'll try. Basically, the hero's brother guy claims that he wasn't looking at the hot girl in class, but at the clock behind her. So later, she strips down to a bathing suit (ALIEN VS PREDATOR!!!), and turns to face the kid as the camera pans a bit to reveal another clock in the background, and she says "Are you STILL looking at the clock?" or something. Are you kidding me?? I like to imagine the set decorator coming to the pool set and being told by a producer that he had to hang a clock on a wall so that they could "pay off" a line that was stupid in the first place with a line that's even stupider, and then crying about what his life entailed. Then he went home and his wife was like "What did you do today, honey?", and he fell onto the floor in fetal position, weeping as he explained. "I had to hang a clock on a wall so that this movie that is called ALIEN VS PREDATOR could make a visual gag concerning some girl's desire to bang a pizza boy."

The writer(s?) also continually set things up that never pay off, such as a pair of night vision goggles that Aylesworth gives her daughter. Will the Predator find them and look through them for a visual gag? Will she help the Predator find an Alien with them? Nope, they are forgotten about halfway through the film, after continually referring to them over the course of 3-4 scenes. It's bad enough they take time away from the Predators and Aliens to try to develop the human characters, but if you're not even going to follow through with it, it just becomes insulting and even more pointless. In interviews, the Strause brothers claim that they wanted to populate the film with people you can identify with, which was lacking in the other films since most people don't know tough marines, or prisoners, or space pirates. But you know what? I'd RATHER know those people than hang out with any of the dipshits in this movie. Apart from a waitress who gets killed in her second scene, I didn't care if a single one of these people lived or died (and the only reason I wanted the waitress to live is because she was pretty hot).

If the film does well at the box office (which will, if nothing else, prove R rated horror isn't dead), a 3rd film will likely come along. If so, I just hope that whoever writes and/or directs it remembers one thing: The name of the movie is Aliens Vs. Predator. That's what we want to see. I don't think a single person on the planet would give a shit if there were no humans in the film at all. But if there MUST be a group of people that the audience is supposed to identify with, for the love of Christ make them at least somewhat interesting and likable.

What say you?


Non Canon Review: Gremlins

DECEMBER 24, 2007


Ah, Gremlins. Easily the best “Tiny monster” movie of all time (tied with Gremlins 2 anyway), and it holds up remarkably well. The Arclight in Hollywood showed it tonight as a holiday treat, and though they fucked up (it was supposed to be a 21+ screening, which meant you can drink while you watch, but it wasn’t), it was still a blast to see it on the big screen.

Let’s get down to brass tacks: Phoebe Cates’ amazing Santa/Christmas Eve story is possibly the most mean-spirited thing ever said in a PG film more or less aimed at children (and the fact that they parody the scene in Gremlins 2 is just fucking brilliant). Considering I saw this as a kid, along with Silent Night, Deadly Night it’s a wonder I believed in Santa at all. Of course, when I was a kid I didn’t really find the movie as funny as I do now (nor did the in-jokes mean anything to me), so it was great to watch it again as an adult (it’s been at LEAST 15 years since I’ve seen the whole film) and see it in a different light.

It’s also amazing how much of the film I remembered, considering how long it had been since I last saw it. And I totally forgot until just now when I began writing my review, I had an audio tape reading of the kids’ tie in book that I used to listen to all the time. It had a lot of dialogue from the film mixed in with a narrator. So that’s probably why some fairly innocuous lines (“He’s old. Besides, we need the money.”) remained stuck in my head.

One thing I never noticed before was Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller, duh) standing outside the bank as Mrs. Deagle makes her way inside. Now, maybe there was a scene that explained this, but it makes no sense at all that he is there, since Billy just turned down a ride from him claiming that he had to get to the bank before he got fired. But hey, more Dick Miller is always a good thing. Also, Futterman is a pretty racist character. Claiming American cars are superior is one thing, but he takes it to extremes, blaming foreigners for everything; even saying he should have bought a Zenith TV. Come on man, no one wants a Zenith.

The score is great too. I was never a big Jerry Goldsmith fan, but this score is top notch. The CD even has the Warner Bros. fanfare on it for some reason. If you walk out of this movie without humming Gizmo’s theme, you’re some sort of alien.

It’s a shame that the sequel didn’t do very well at the box office, as it pretty much killed any chance of a 3rd film (though rumors abound that one is being made, possibly without Joe Dante). The mix of comedy and horror rarely worked better in this type of film (Tremors being the only one I can think of that even came close), and the amount of film in-jokes and ‘over their head’ humor makes this an ideal choice when you want to watch something you loved as a kid. Since it’s been so long since this type of movie has been made, I speak for myself and Zach Galligan’s agent when I say Gremlins 3 (but only with Dante) is very much needed.

What say you?


The Eye (2002)

DECEMBER 24, 2007


Back in March, I was asked to do a set visit for the remake of The Eye (aka Gin Gwai), which will star Jessica Alba. Since an interview with Alba was also included (plus free food!) I was excited to go. Well it sucked, because Alba looked like hell (celebs get acne too, I guess) and the scene we got to see them film was... Alba getting out of a cab in the rain. Exciting!!!

Well the remake police better sharpen their clubs (what?), because the original film has not a single scene of the girl getting out of a cab in the rain! Clearly they have bastardized the entire film!!! Why even call it a remake if they are going to go so far from the source material! The bastards!

Unlike Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge, I’m not even sure if this one really needed a remake for American audiences. Language aside, it’s far more accessible to an American audience than the others, and much better than those other original films to boot. Like many a J-horror film, we have a good hour of creepy scenes with no seeming point, and then a flurry of exposition as everything is explained, and once again it comes down to a woman who is needlessly dead trying to resolve her death from beyond the grave. Hell, there’s even a scene in English (which confused the hell out of me; I thought it was like some 13th Warrior shit where I just LISTENED! enough to understand what they were saying and then “heard” everything in my native language).

Oddly, the first hour actually works better. Sure, we have no idea why this poor girl is being harassed by what seems like every ghost in Asia as a result of getting new eyes, but damned if the scares aren’t effective. There’s a scene with her in an elevator as a creepy ghost man slowly approaches her that is quite chilling, at least, according to my wife (I slept through this particular scene, but it’s in the trailer and it looks good). The ones I stayed awake through were quite good too.

But once they start explaining everything it starts to fall apart. The back-story isn’t bad, but I just don’t like having everything explained all at once. I prefer when things are explained in small doses throughout the film (part of why I love Lost so much; people might think they are getting gypped with the answers but I think they dish out the information at a flawless rate). Luckily, the film gets back on track with a truly depressing finale. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say the body count in this movie far exceeded my expectations.

Another surprise was the music. I loved it! The credit is given to “Orange Music”, and the only information I can find about them (him? It?) is in other reviews of the film. Some of it seems to be library or source material (I SWEAR I heard Craig Armstrong’s Romeo and Juliet score in there), but no information is given at all in the end credits about any of the music. Oh well.

Part of why I had so little hope for this one, besides my usual non-enthusiasm for these types of films, is that these guys made The Messengers, which was one of the year's weaker films. Also, I was supposed to interview them for that film and they kept blowing me off. So I was inclined to knock this one, but damned if I didn't enjoy it. Kudos, brothers Pang. Get your schedule straight and stop working for Ghost House, and you might be two of my favorite foreign directors!

In my notes I wrote down “Most skeptical grandma”. I don’t have much to say on the manner, other than that the lead’s grandmother is indeed very skeptical. She gets angry at the drop of a hat in her first few scenes, and I found it amusing. That’s about it.

What say you?


Non Canon Review: Black Xmas (2006)

DECEMBER 23, 2007


You’re goddamn right the source was my own DVD collection! I like Black Xmas, goddammit, and I will defend it to the death! In fact, I even tried picking a fight at last week’s screening of the original by saying, loudly, “Morgan and Wong did it better!”. But no one bit (and for the record, I don’t really feel that way; Clark’s film is better, but Morgan’s is good too), probably because a lot of the haters are likely people who just hate the film without having bothered to watch it and thus don’t know who the filmmakers are.

I really don’t understand why this one gets so reviled. Most fans love the Final Destination films, and this film has a lot of the same elements (ridiculous death scenes with Rube Goldberg style setups, lots of gore, black humor, hot girls), albeit applied to a loose remake of a slasher movie. Bob Clark even gave it his blessing, and he was always a guy who spoke his mind, not a paycheck grabber like Carpenter, which leads me to believe he truly did approve of what they were doing. So what’s the problem, exactly?

Is it a great film? No, not at all. They set up the 2nd killer to be some sort of surprise, but two girls die before the killer escapes. Also, there seems to be two of each girl: 2 bitches, 2 final girls, 2 dumb girls... as hot as they all are, they definitely could have combined a couple of them. And no, it’s not particularly scary (though there are some decent jumps and set-pieces). But really, that’s about it. Otherwise, it’s the exact type of modern slasher I would expect from Morgan and Wong, remake or not.

And as it only retains the basic plot and setting from the original, it can’t really be accused of bastardizing it in the same way the Psycho or Halloween remakes did. Say what you want about the film, but you can’t accuse them of copying the original scene for scene. Like Dawn 04, no characters were retained, no specific set-pieces (all of the murders are different, though the first girl to get killed again ends up in the attic by the window) were copied, the killer has a motive this time, and, unsurprisingly, there is ZERO social commentary (i.e. no abortion talk). Like I said the other day, from a thematic and sensibility standpoint, it’s more of a remake of Silent Night Deadly Night than Black Christmas.

In addition to all the hot girls, there's some bonus incest!

Plus, they do a great job of making the girls even in terms of survival probability. The Final Girl is a bit easy to pick, but the others are equal game, since they are given equal screen-time and also are about the same in terms of how famous they are in real life.

The DVD has some of the usual extras, though I am bummed about the lack of a commentary. It’s also unrated, but I can’t tell what’s different from the theatrical, though I think Michelle Trachtenberg (I’m glad she’s finally old enough that ogling her is OK) has a slightly different death, but that’s about it. I should note that the scenes in the trailer that are missing from the film were in fact only shot for the trailer, without Morgan’s knowledge. However, they do break the norm with a piece about, well, Morgan’s hatred of the film. While technically a making-of piece, he spends most of the time he’s on camera explaining why he hates these types of movies. He also points out that when he makes a movie that he likes (Willard), it bombs, so he has to cater to the audience just to get the opportunity to make something he DOES care about in the future. So there ya go, even the director hates the movie. I truly am the only one in its corner.

What say you?


Murder Party

DECEMBER 23, 2007


I heard conflicting reports about Murder Party. One friend said I would love it, another declared it one of the worst films he had ever seen. Well, now that I’ve seen it, thanks to Zach's recommendation, I must admit that they are both right. At times the movie is great, and then other times, it is insufferably bad. Overall I’d say I enjoyed it but would never want to watch it again.

I think part of the problem is that we have almost an hour of nothing really happening, just a bunch of pretentious art scenesters mostly yelling at each other as some poor sod who stumbled into their ‘party’ gets chained to a chair and makes big eyes at everything. It gets boring, quick. Then, the main art hipster guy is revealed to be a phony, at which point they all start killing each other. The final 20 minutes is a blood bath, while retaining the humor. Certainly, the idea of seeing a bunch of pretentious artsy fartsy types get chainsawed to death is appealing, but it should have comprised more of the film. Like... all of it. In fact, 80 nonstop minutes of “artists” getting graphically killed could very well be the finest film ever made.

On more than a couple occasions, the humor doesn’t work quite as well as it’s supposed to. For example, at one point a photographer gets shot in the head, and as he’s bleeding everywhere, he moans that he just wants to take a photo before he dies. This is fucking stupid, not funny. He would be instantly dead from his wound (a bullet goes into the back of his head and comes out of his forehead). If you break realism, the humor is immediately gone. There’s also a scene where one of the guys forces another to remove his vampire costume. It goes on for like 3 minutes, and it’s not only pointless, but the possible amusement it provides runs out long before the scene itself does (plus it’s merely setting something up that would be much funnier, or at least interesting, if it came completely out of nowhere). But there are still quite a few laughs. My favorite is when the poor non-artist sod is running around trying to get help from a bunch of art snobs, and he’s yelling “He’s trying to kill me”, to which one guy responds “Good, asshole!” Hahahahah, awesome.

Spoiler: This happens to a guy.

The music at the beginning of the film sounds like Halloween III and Prince of Darkness, so that’s good. In fact, while I usually dislike such things, the tone of the first 15 minutes is completely different from the rest, and I think it works. The absurdity of the situation he finds himself in wouldn’t be as surprising if the film began on a silly note. So, nice work.

As this is an independent film, several of the actors are also listed as producers and other crew members (and what has to be the first instance of an executive producer also being listed as a regular producer), and they all play characters that have the same name as their real life names. None of them are truly bad, but I think the film would work a bit better with names. It would have been a lot more exciting if Lukas Haas suddenly went apeshit and began beating everyone to death than it was when some no-name who just kind of looks like him did it. As I learned on the commentary and making-of (which is pretty amusing in its own right), these guys grew up together making films that, from the clips they show, aren’t that dissimilar from the ‘films’ my friends and I made for various school projects (or for the hell of it), which warmed me to the film a bit. Still, the unevenness of it hurts what could have been a classic.

What say you?


Boy Eats Girl

DECEMBER 22, 2007


In an odd way, it's kind of a bummer that Shaun Of The Dead is so damn good, because every "funny zombie" movie that has come along since gets compared to it, and usually unfavorably. In fact, it's almost impossible to find a review of Boy Eats Girl that DOESN'T mention Edgar Wright's film, which must be particularly annoying for the filmmakers.

Luckily for them, their film is quite good. In fact the biggest complaint I have about it is that it is too short. Running only 80 minutes with credits, the movie could have used another setpiece and maybe a tad more character time, but it works without them. It's funny when it's supposed to be, with a very good hit/miss ratio for the gags (I could do without a few of his geeky friends' quips). Almost all of the characters are likable, even the bitchy girl who you're supposed to hate is somewhat endearing (mainly for her response to "I'll eat you myself!"), and since the movie doesn't really spend a lot of time 'getting to know' them, that's high praise for the (mostly no-name) actors playing them. The lead in particular is quite good (and I am sure this is just coincidence, but he actually resembles Edgar Wright), pulling off the raging zombie version just as well as the lovesick emo kid version.

On that note, I'd like to point out the soundtrack: it's great! If you like pop rock. If not, oooh boy you'll hate this soundtrack. But for the rest of us, it's a treasure trove of UK pop.

My only other complaint is, again, the amount of production company logos (counting them, this movie is really only like 70 minutes!). There's a half dozen animated logos, and then EVERY SINGLE ONE IS REPEATED during the opening credit crawl!! Why, why why all of these goddamn things are at the top of the film is beyond me. On TV shows, the logos are shown at the END. Would you want to hear "Sit Ubu sit" every time you wanted to watch an episode of Family Ties? Of course not, that's why it's at the end, so you can shut it off. I've said it before - no one cares whose production companies worked on it except for the people whose production companies worked on it. If you just want to suck yourselves off, for the love of Christ stick it at the end of the film so people who just want to watch a movie don't have to sit through this crap to satisfy your whimsy. In this case, Lionsgate should be the only one at the top. Even though they didn't work on it, they are the ones directly responsible for distributing it in a manner that allowed me to see it in the comfort of my own home. I thank them in advance; if the movie is good I can see what companies 'presented' it at the end. Imagine if you put a CD in and before the first song came on, you had to listen to the names of all the guys who pro-tooled it to hell.

Kind of bummed the DVD has no extras though. Alexander gets 3 2-disc releases and this movie doesn't even get a blooper reel??? Then again, as it is a "foreign" film (Ireland, I believe), perhaps the Region 2 release has the usual stuff... anyone know? I'm too lazy to go look.

What say you?


You Better Watch Out!

DECEMBER 21, 2007


I should have known from the start... You Better Watch Out! (aka Christmas Evil) is a movie that was recommended to me by someone who didn’t like the end of The Mist, and given to me by someone as an apology for losing my “treasured” Halloween: Resurrection DVD. What kind of pedigree is that for a movie? It’s a wonder I managed to even make it until the end.

The problem with the film is that it doesn’t go far enough in any direction to be worth a damn. It’s not scary or creepy, like your Black Christmases. It’s not overly mean-spirited, like Silent Night, Deadly Night. And it’s not particularly funny, like Black Xmas (or really, any of the other films mentioned). It’s just sort of there. There are attempts to go in these directions, but they are very half-assed, and it’s only in the film’s final 20 minutes that it shows any signs of life (and even then the film is hit or miss). In fact, according to the director, it’s supposed to just be a sort of off-kilter character study (hence the slow pace) about a guy’s mental deterioration, but even as that it doesn’t work, because all of the other elements, light as they are, distract away from this idea. It’s 4 different types of movies in one, and none really deliver.

Like The Burning, nothing much happens for the first hour, and then we get 4 kills at once. But UNLIKE The Burning, the sequence isn’t particularly good, nor does it offer any inventive gore or makeup work. It only sticks out because it’s pretty much the first time in the film that something has fucking happened.

There are a couple of future stars here though. Most famous is Patricia Richardson as the mother of a kid who’s deemed naughty for having poor hygiene and looking at a spank mag (but NOT actually pleasuring himself – which any other writer/director of a Killer Santa movie would surely have done). But also, Raymond J. Barry (who appears in The Ref, a much better “anti-Christmas” movie) shows up as a cop, and Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn plays the killer’s brother. So there’s something.

Also this guy. He’s a newscaster, but he looks like a sleazy pimp. And he comes across as sinister. As hilarious as this is, it’s yet another one of the film’s problems – the killer Santa Claus is never as frightening as the creepy Guido that’s merely discussing his crimes. And since almost nothing in the movie is particularly funny either (if anything, it’s sort of sad, since the guy is clearly a bit disturbed and lonely), it succeeds at neither horror or comedy.

But it has its fans, and the DVD (a director’s cut) has a nice collection of extras, including an entertaining commentary by John Waters (I wish he was solo, the director keeps interjecting things that aren’t funny), making it an easy recommend if you like the film (and props for making the deleted scenes anamorphic, something even big budget studio movies don’t often bother to provide). In fact, the most entertainment I got out of the disc was the collection of comment cards from a test audience. Most are negative, unsurprisingly, and many females indicate they want to meet Harry. Whores.

Incidentally, when I bought the original budget pack (Chilling Classics), the description of the set that I read online had this film included, but it was replaced (with what I’m not certain, I figured it out once but have since forgotten), likely due to the rights being bought by another company (in this case, Synapse). So if you have that pressing of the Chilling Classics, you got a good deal: this movie is worth just about 40 cents, and not much more.

What say you?


Atom Age Vampire

DECEMBER 20, 2007


Maybe it’s because I was so happy to watch a budget pack film shot on actual film and with actual actors, or maybe it was all the rumballs I ate while watching it, but I really enjoyed Atom Age Vampire (aka Seddok, l'erede di Satana), despite the lack of vampires and a fast pace. Hell, it was even letterboxed (sort of), the only film across any of my three Mill Creek sets that wasn’t entirely full frame (so far).

As this is an Italian film, some things are a given. There will be bad dubbing. There will be nonsensical translation errors (my favorite, from one man to another - “You know professor, I’d say I know you intimately.”). There will be an alternate version listed on the IMDb that runs another 15 minutes, yet they won’t provide any details or useful information concerning what is different (it’s the IMDb’s own version of “I know something you don’t know!”). Etc. As a bonus, there’s even a guy named Mario Fava in the credits. The legendary Italian horror bean.

On that note, I can’t imagine that the film would be longer. Even in this version, which runs just shy of 90 minutes, it seems like there’s a lot of padding. For example, late in the film, some cops go to a theatre to investigate the seat where the bad guy was seen sitting. For what seems like 5 straight minutes, they discuss where he was sitting, where the witnesses sat, what he wore, etc. It’s all pretty pointless, since they find him through other means a few scenes later anyway.

But there’s something sort of alluring about the film. Maybe it’s the cute little bat animation at the beginning, or the out of nowhere Casablanca homage, or the hero who says things like “Am I wrong or are you getting fatter?” to a girl who actually seems flattered by his remark (remind me to try this on a woman)... or a combination of them all!

Plus, you know, the actual horror movie elements. The mad scientist guy is killing folks to use their vital... whatever in order to heal a beautiful woman who was badly scarred. But he sort of gets sick of doing that and goes nuts. That’s cool, and some of the murder scenes are pretty stylish, particularly one about halfway through at a university. The finale seems lifted out of any old Universal horror movie, with the monster and hero punching one another and knocking over tables while a woman screams, but that’s OK. No one ever watches an Italian horror movie and expects total originality.

What say you?


Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2

DECEMBER 19, 2007


You know, for years I bought into the belief that more than half of Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 was recycled footage from the first film. Having only seen the film once, nearly 20 years ago, I couldn’t remember much other than it DID indeed have lots of “flashbacks”. Well, now that I’ve seen the film again, I can safely say “Fuck you” to them. For starters, the last bit of recycled footage ends before this film even REACHES its halfway point, and up until that point there is plenty of new footage mixed in with the old footage to boot. And Christ, even some of the “recycled” footage is actually new (the two people fucking in the orphanage, as well as a different actor playing young Ricky at the end of part 1). It’s still excessive, but wildly over-exaggerated nonetheless.

I WILL complain that the footage suffers from a cinematic pet peeve of mine: flashbacks from a character who wasn’t present when they occurred. Ricky (the brother of the killer from the first film) is the one telling these stories, and even if we assume that Billy, for some reason, told Ricky the story of his father being shot and his mother being sexually assaulted and stabbed on Christmas eve at some point, he certainly wouldn’t have been able to tell him about his exploits as the killer Santa, since Billy was shot and killed before ever speaking to Ricky again. And on top of that, these flashbacks also include scenes that Billy HIMSELF wasn’t even around to see. And they even try to explain this at first (Ricky says things like “Billy told me…”), but they give up after a while.

Lots of movies threaten this, but never follow through.

There are also some bizarre errors in the flashbacks. For example, Father O’Brien, the deaf priest who was shot in the first film after being mistaken for the killer, has become Kelsey the Janitor in this film? Why change that? A dead priest is way more crassly hilarious than a dead janitor. And why does Mother Superior look like she was burned when we are told she suffered a stroke? On the other hand, they also re-edit the antler scene in a manner that makes a hell of a lot more sense; making it seem that her boyfriend DOES hear the sound of her being thrown around and screaming. Nice work.

Also, at one point, Ricky goes to see Silent Night, Deadly Night, which defies pretty much all laws of cinematic physics. It’s one thing when the characters in H20 watch Scream (a film in which the characters watch Halloween), it’s another when a character goes to see the first film in his own series.

Hilariously enough, in addition to the 2 writers of the first film, there are FOUR credited writers with the story of this film, which is pretty astounding when the entire story of the new footage is “Ricky talks to a shrink, kills him, then goes and kills Mother Superior”. There are some other murders, including one committed by a “teen Ricky” who looks much older than the actor playing “older Ricky”. And, keeping with the series’ tradition, he looks absolutely nothing like any of the other actors who played the character – which totals about 6 at this point (7 if you count Bill Moseley, who played him in part 3). But these elements aren’t exactly story-heavy, amounting to nothing more than random killings; nothing that you’d need four people to come up with at any rate. Did each guy tackle a scene?

Cleanest decap in cinema history!

While nowhere near as awesome as the first, the sequel carries on the tradition of this reprehensible series pretty well, in my opinion. It’s just as ridiculous, mean-spirited, and downright wretched as the original, only less funny (“Garbage Day!” sequence aside). In fact, it almost seems at times that the filmmakers were trying to make the film too legitimate, what with diopter shots and lots of camera movement. Come on guys, no one is going to use this on their reel; just have some fun (i.e. kill more people for no reason).

What say you?


Non Canon Review: Black Christmas (1974)

DECEMBER 18, 2007


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Black Christmas, Horror Movie A Day’s first dual source movie!

As I was stuck at work, I missed the first 50 min or so of the film’s annual screening at the New Beverly. Of course, the two years before I missed it entirely, so at least I am improving. Anyway, I rewatched the first part of the film on my DVD, which, now that I have an HDTV, I notice has quite a bad transfer. Overly grainy and suffering from frame stutter (not to mention an over-matted transfer, though you can’t really tell), it’s pretty disappointing, especially coming home from seeing a pristine film print.

Anyway, the film itself is of course, quite revered, and rightfully so for the most part. While I never shined to the film’s odd pace and tonal shifts (the silly “F-E-llatio” scene is immediately followed by Peter practically threatening to kill Jess for considering an abortion), the phone calls remain suitably frightening, and the POV scenes, unheard of at the time, hold up quite well despite 30 years of being copied to some extent.

I also kind of dig the movie’s insistence on not resolving a goddamn thing. The killer is never identified or caught, the subplot about the dead little girl in the park is never really proven to be a red herring or a related incident, there are no characters named Billy or Agnes, etc. I’m surprised they even bothered revealing the source of the phone calls, since by that point it’s largely incidental and obvious anyway. But one thing I DON’T care for is the abrupt conclusion with Peter suddenly showing up and then exiting the film offscreen. I guess it’s supposed to add to the ambiguity, but it doesn’t quite feel that way. It feels more like they didn’t have time or just plain forgot to film the whole scene.

Margot Kidder (way hotter here than in Superman, for the record) plays one of my favorite slasher characters of all time. Often drunk and swearing, she’s pretty much the type of girl I’d hang out with and get rejected by for being too nice. A shame she goes to bed like 20 minutes into the damn movie and doesn’t appear again until her death scene. The guys who did the remake tried to get her to play the house mother, but she declined, so we had to settle for Andrea Martin.

Seeing the film with a crowd is pretty joyous – especially final scene, when everyone just suddenly up and leaves poor Jess by herself. The crowd was in stitches, and for good reason; it’s fucking hilarious. Of course, the ineptitude of the cops provides a lot of the film’s highlights (not to mention the fact that if they were doing their jobs right they would have found poor Claire and Ms. Mac up in the attic and thus prevented most of the film from ever occurring). Nash in particular is the dumbest movie cop of all time, making even Dewey from Scream look competent in comparison.

Bad transfer aside, the DVD has a lot of good extras, though sadly no commentary and very little input from Bob Clark, who died a few months after this non-definitive release (making this year’s screening all the more somber, as he often attended for Q&A; this year was John Saxon as well as Zach Ward who was in Clark’s other holiday classic, A Christmas Story). Maybe in 2009, for the 35th anniversary, they will compile all of the releases into one whole 2 disc package, with a new transfer that does the film better justice. Here’s hoping!

Also, according to the IMDb and Wikipedia (two of the most reliable sources of information in the world), NBC pulled this off the air during a showing because people complained it to was “too scary”, which is like taking MST3k off for being too funny. Considering that the phone calls, the only scary parts of the movie really, had to have been edited down to nothing for a primetime broadcast, you gotta wonder just how lame people were back in the 70s.

What say you?


Rosemary's Baby

DECEMBER 18, 2007


Well as many of you correctly guessed (almost 50% of the total vote!), Rosemary’s Baby is indeed the classic horror movie I had never seen. There are many reasons for this. One is that the movie is too damn long to watch before work (which is when I watch many of my films), so I had to get myself up early to watch it (and I STILL didn’t finish it time, and had to watch the conclusion at work and pray Mia Farrow didn’t appear nude again in the final 15 minutes).

Another reason is that it’s just been built up so much. Being a lover of horror, I read a lot of Fangoria, Rue Morgue, etc. And whenever they interview a big star who is doing a horror movie, they always have the same canned answer in regards to their opinions on horror films: “I don’t usually like horror movies; though I do like Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and Silence of the Lambs.” Well, that’s fine; maybe you should get together with all the two thousand other “serious” actors who said the same thing. I’ll be over here making my own opinions.

Anyway, out of those three, I don’t like Silence much at all and I think Exorcist is only pretty good. I can certainly see why people like them so much, and they are at least technically near flawless (though I HATE all the looking directly into camera stuff in Silence – way overused), but for the most part they are not my cup of tea. So I always kind of figured Rosemary would leave me with the same impression, so I opted to go out of my way to see shit like Hallowed Ground (a film with a similar premise) instead. Real smart, huh?

Luckily, I actually enjoyed Rosemary. It’s certainly not one of my 3 favorites (then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows where my tastes lie), but it really works, and even holds up well, 40 years later. The pace is a bit uneven, but it’s forgivable, as it sort of lulls you into thinking everything is fine only to deliver something sort of shocking (her friend’s ‘suicide’ early on, for example).

Strangely, for a film that’s 2:20 long, the editing is almost TOO tight. Several scenes end right at the instant the last word is said, when you would expect it to hold on a reaction so that the words sink in a bit before we move on to something else. Of course, those same folks who claim this film is the 2nd coming will be the first to complain about a Bruckheimer film being edited too fast, but I’m used to that sort of hypocrisy by now.

And I SWORE this guy was a time traveling Geoffrey Lewis.

As this is a Polanski film, there’s a lot of quirky humor to enjoy as well. I love the husband’s complete laid back manner of revealing to Rosemary that he fucked her in her sleep. “I thought it was exciting in a sort of necrophile way,” he says, as casually as he might mention that he was considering buying a new tie. There’s also a catty cult member who sticks her tongue out at Rosemary for getting her in trouble with the main cult guy. And William Castle shows up in a fake scare, which is pretty awesome (he produced the film).

Also, I never knew Mia Farrow was once hot. Good to know.

On a final note, I’d like to point out that the 2nd place “winner” in the poll was John Carpenter’s The Thing, a film I have professed my love for a couple of times on the site. Does this mean that you HAVEN’T memorized the contents of all 300+ reviews? Why, I am insulted!!!

What say you?


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget